On this episode, Sterg and Derek discuss three recent titles that run the gamut from sci-fi to political to slice-of-life (or what the Two Guys prefer to call verite dessinée). They begin with the latest collection from Craig Yoe, The Unknown Anti-War Comics(IDW Publications/Yoe Books). This is a volume devoted to classic Charlton Comics stories from the 1950s and 1960s — most probably written by Joe Gill — that have a peaceful message to deliver. One of the highlights of this collection is the art of Steve Ditko. After that, the guys jump into the latest issue of Love and Rockets(Fantagraphics Books). Both Derek and Sterg highlight what they particularly like about this specific issue, but they also speculate on the current career trajectories of Gilbert and Jaime and even on what they see as some of the “excesses” of each brother. Finally, the guys wrap up with a discussion of the first two issues of Nnedi Okorafor and Tana Ford’s LaGuardia(Dark Horse Comics/Berger Books). In fact, this is an appropriate title to bookend the episode, along with Charlton anti-war stories. Both Sterg and Derek are intrigued by the premise of this limited series, but at the same time they feel that there’s something missing from the first two issues, which is half of the four-issue run. Is the narrative too decompressed? Lacking enough exposition? Regardless, both guys want to read on and see where Okorafor and Tana end with their timely story.
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times”
On this, the second show in The Comics Alternative‘s new Critical Takes series, Derek has back on the podcast Keith Dallas, coauthor of the new book, American Comic Book Chronicles: The 1990s. Listeners might remember that he talked with Keith, along with John Wells, back last summer when their Comic Book Implosion was released by TwoMorrows Publishing. In fact, that was the very first Critical Takes episode. This time around, Keith is joined by Jason Sacks, another comics scholar and historian who has worked on other texts within the American Comic Book Chroniclesseries. The two have just released their volume on the 1990s, a curious and tumultuous time in American comics history. As you’ll hear in conversation, Jason and Keith discuss in detail their first-hand experiences during this decade, the process of researching for this project, the various stereotypes that they had to overcome when encapsulating the decade, and what each of them sees as key defining moments for comics during the 1990s. They also talk about the genesis of the American Comic Book Chroniclesseries and what we might expect with future volumes.
It’s the first episode of the new year, and for the January Previewsshow the Two Guys decide to try something different: invite a third person to join them in discussing the current Previewscatalog. This week Sterg and Derek are joined by Troy-Jeffrey Allen who works with community outreach at PREVIEWSworld. And given Troy’s association with Diamond Distributors and the ins and outs of their monthly catalog, he’s able to provide insights and additional commentary that results in an extra special discussion. And as you might expect, the addition of a third conversant makes this episode longer than usual…as if the guys’ monthly Previews shows weren’t long enough. Among the many publishers and titles that Troy, Sterg, and Derek highlight are:
On this manga episode, their last of 2018, Shea and Derek look at two recent works of manga that are actually quite similar in a number of ways. They begin with Frankenstein: Junji Ito Story Collection(VIZ Media). This isn’t the first time, by far, that the guys have discussed Junji Ito’s horror work, and whereas they’ve been less impressed with some of his more recent translations, they are more enthusiastic about this current collection. The standout story is Ito’s adaptation of Mary Shelley’s classic romance, which takes up almost half of the text. But the other stories in this collection, specifically the Oshikiri cycle ones, are gripping, as well.
After that the Two Guys check out a wild example of manga, Shintaro Kago’s Dementia 21(Fantagraphics). While both Derek and Shea had heard of Kago, until now they really hadn’t read any of his works. This book, the first in a two-volume series from the publisher, is a collection of 17 stories that surround the escapades of Yukie Sakai, a young home healthcare aide. Her assignments to a variety of elderly patients all turn out surreal, taking her into mind-blowing adventures that are hilarious as they are nonsensical (and even metafictional, in some cases). Kago’s manga has been described as ero guro nansensu, although in this collection there is more nansensu than there is ero guro. (For the latter, listeners are referred to another translated collection of Kago’s, Super-Dimensional Love Gun, from Fakku Books.)
For their December Euro Comics show, Pascal and Derek discuss two recent French titles in translation. They begin with Thierry Smolderen and Jean-Philippe Bramanti’s McCay(Titan Comics), a surreal narrative surrounding the life of comics legend Windsor McCay. But this work is not a biography. Smolderen takes historical moments in McCay’s life and from those weaves a fantastical tale that includes noir intrigue, metafictional elements, and the fourth dimension. After that the guys turn to the three volumes of Yann and Alain Henriet’s Bear’s Tooth (Cinebook). Each of the three works — Max, Hanna, and Werner— is based on one of the three protagonists in this World War II tale. As Pascal reveals, Yann and Henriet’s follow up to this series (not yet translated) continues the storyline, but with strange alternate history twist.
It’s that time again! It’s the end of the year, their very last weekly review episode of 2018, and so the Two Guys are ready to share what they consider to be their favorite comics of the past twelve months. This is Sterg’s first time doing this, but he successfully steps up to the plate to reveal what he considers his 10 favorites of 2018. And Derek does the same.
Before that, though, they go over a few statistics from the past year. Over the course of 2018 — at least up until the time of the recording of this end-of-the-year show — The Comics Alternativereleased a total of 171 episodes of the podcast. Of that number, 55 were interviews, 10 were webcomics shows, 11 manga episodes, 10 from the Euro comics series, 6 were young reader shows, 16 on-location episodes, and 1 special. (And since Sterg and Derek recorded this “Favorites” episode, there have been at least three other shows for the current year, an on-location, a webcomic, and a Euro comics show. Maybe a manga episode will go up before the new year, as well?)
But of much more importance are the various titles that both Sterg and Derek picked as this year’s favorites. Each chooses, in no particular order, what he considers to be his 10 favorites of 2018:
On this webcomics episode, the last of 2018, Sean and Derek get into the holiday spirit. They discuss three titles that concern Christmas or the winter season (i.e., has the word “snow” in the title). They begin with Leonardo Faierman and Marcus Kwame Anderson’s Snow Daze, a narrative about a group of enterprising teenagers in Queens, NY, who create a business shoveling snow, all the while dealing with the challenges of urban life, especially as it concerns matters of race. After that the guys look at another snow-related webcomic, Snow by Night, written by Eric Menge and with primary art by Julie A. Wright and Brittany Michel. This is a fantasy inspired by French colonial culture in North America, and largely revolves around a manitou, a nature spirit of the wilderness, who quests to find her “heart.” Finally, Derek and Sean turn to a quite different webcomic, one created by the Blizzard Entertainment corporation to supplement one of their popular video games. Michael Chu and Miki Montlló’s Overwatch: Reflectionsis a Christmas story involving the character Tracer as she attempts to find a last-minute gift and (predictably enough) learns the true meaning of the season.
Mike and Derek are back at Heroes Aren’t Hard to Find in Charlotte, NC, for their December show. It’s been a couple of months since their last visit to the shop — this past fall was difficult for everyone — but the guys are excited to sit down among customers and talk comics. And this being the end of 2018, they thought they’d discuss the year in review, the highlights, the news, and the notable titles that defined 2018. Among other topics, they cover the unfortunate passing of several comics legends over the past year, including Steve Ditko, Stan Lee, and Marie Severin. (They mistakenly bring up Bernie Wrightson, as well, although he died last year.) They also spend time talking about 2018 being the year that the imprints Black Crown and Berger Books really took off, the 1000th issue of Action Comics, the impact of Tom King this year, Grant Morrison’s new work on Green Lantern, and the past year in terms of the Marvel cinematic (and Netflix) universe. While Mike is free to share some of his favorite titles from the past twelve months, Derek is a little reticent because he doesn’t want to give away what he’ll discuss on next week’s year-end episode where he and Stergios reveal what each considers their favorites of 2018. Stay turned for that!
And remember, The Comics Alternative‘s on-location series is part of the Queen City Podcast Network. Check out the other great shows that make up this audio community!
Jon Morris is back, once again, on The Comics Alternative, to share his research and sense of humor. His latest book The League of Regrettable Sidekicks (Quirk Books) is the follow up to his previous two works, The League of Regrettable Superheroesand The Legion of Regrettable Supervillains. In the spirit of the previous books, this one is a revealing and good-natured look at some of the strange creations making up comic-book history, figures that may be unknown or completely forgotten by most enthusiasts. And perhaps for good reason. Also like the earlier works, Jon divides his survey into three temporal categories: the Golden Age, the Silver Age, and the Modern Age. Sterg and Derek have a fun time talking about the weirdness of this collection, their favorite “regrettable” sidekicks and henchmen, and their wonderment at how such figures made it into four colors. They also talk with Jon about his other work and future projects, including his own comics work.
See where it all started! Visit Jon’s blog, Gone and Forgotten, and get the inside scoop on retro comicdom! And if you’re a Columbo fan, check out his sleuthy podcast, Just One More Thing.
As the Two Guys like to do every year, they are back talking again with Bill Kartalopoulos about the latest volume of The Best American Comics(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). This year the guest editor is Phoebe Gloeckner, perhaps best known for The Diary of a Teenage Girl. In fact, one of the topics of conversation with Bill is how different it might be working with vastly different comics creators as guest editors every year. Sterg and Derek also talk with their guest about the process of pulling together each year’s volume, the inundation of submissions he receives, strategies for choosing what to include, the (at times) painful process of excluding from the anthology certain comics due to logistical reasons, his relationship with the publisher, and unique directions that perhaps he may want to take the series. There’s not much discussion surrounding the content of this year’s volume — that will be the topic of this week’s regular review episode — but Sterg and Derek ask Bill about the process off Best American Comics and get quite a bit of behind-the-scene answers.
On this interview episode, Sterg and Derek are excited to have Tom Hart back to discuss his new book, The Art of the Graphic Memoir: Tell Your Story, Change Your Life (St. Martin’s Griffin). Tom was on the podcast not quite three years ago to discuss his new memoir at the time Rosalie Lightning, but this time he’s returned to talk not so much about story content, but about the process of creating a graphic memoir. As he discusses with the Two Guys, Tom’s latest book is more instructional or how-to, covering the necessary steps in planning for, organizing, structuring, visualizing, and finalizing a memoir through the comics medium. In addition, he points out that the very project of writing and illustrating one’s own life story isn’t only about sharing a story with readers, but perhaps just as important, using the very process of creation as a way of revisiting, revisualizing, and even coming to terms with important life moments. Along the way Derek and Sterg talk with Tom about his other instructional texts, such as How to Say Everything and The Sequential Artists Workshop Guide to Creating Professional Comic Strips, his vast knowledge of the comics memoir genre, his new comic-strip project B. Is Dying, and his experiences teaching at and directing SAW, the Sequential Artists Workshop in Gainesville, FL.
This is a very special episode of The Comics Alternative, in that it’s the guys’ very first live recording. That’s right, Sterg and Derek decided to record this week’s show via Google Hangouts. Yesterday — Tuesday, December 11 — they scheduled a live-streaming broadcast, and fans of the show could watch the Two Guys with PhDs Talking about Comics record a show in real time. As Sterg put it on Twitter, “Come for the slow motion train wreck, but stay when it is instead a great talk about some recent comics!” And everything went off just fine.
On this episode they began with a discussion of Jon Lee Anderson and José Hernández’s Che: A Revolutionary Life (Penguin Press). This is graphic adaptation of Anderson’s 1997 biography of Che Guevara, and as the guys discuss, Hernández does an outstanding job of illustrating the broader life story of the famous revolutionary. After that they look at the first two issues of David and Maria Lapham’s The Lodger. This is the latest series from IDW’s Black Crown imprint, and Derek and Sterg note that it’s classic Lapham crime noir. In fact, this storyline could easily fit into the Stray Bullets series. Then they wrap up with a look at Kieron GIllen and Stephanie Hans’s Die #1 (Image Comics). This is a D&D-inspired fantasy narrative, and the guys frame this within the context of similar stories, such as Stephen King’s It, the Netflix series Stranger Things, and the first Jumanji movie.
The Two Guys with PhDs are very happy to have back on the podcast Noah Van Sciver. He was first on the show back in March 2015, and a lot of things have changed with him since the guys last talked with Noah (and not just his growing of a mustache). Most significantly, his output has been through the roof! One of the things Sterg and Derek discuss with their guest is the sheer volume of his comics creation. Over the past six months alone he has released four different titles, and from a variety of publishers: Constant Companion(Fantagraphics), Blammo #10 (Kilgore Books and comics), One Dirty Tree (Uncivilized Books), and Fante Bukowski 3: A Perfect Failure (Fantagraphics). The guys talk with Noah about his work habits, his penchant for working with different publishers, his ability to juggle different projects at the same time, and his current work and what we can expect from him in the future. And of course, there is a lot of laughter in this episode. Noah is a humorous, and at time quite satirical, writer, yet the humor is often mixed with pathos, as we see not only his autobiographical comics, but most notably in his recent Fante Bukowski. This was a fun interview…and even more fun was had after they turned off the microphones and the guys hung out on Skype to talk about even more matters. Too bad that wasn’t captured for the show, but this new interview with Noah Van Sciver is definitely a highlight of Stergios and Derek’s year.
Pascal and Derek are back with the latest Euro Comics episode…the very late November show. They begin with Edmond Baudoin’s Piero (New York Review Comics). This is a fascinating and moving memoir — or better yet, a series of remembrances — from Baudoin and his relationship with his younger brother Pierre, or Piero. While the title and the story itself would lead one to believe that this is the story of Edmond’s younger brother, it’s actually a narrative that focuses on the author himself. Edmond, or Momon, as he’s called in the book, is at the center of this text, and he’s explored and defined within the context of his brother and their relationship, especially as it concerns art and illustration.
After that, the Two Guys turn to Jacques Ferrandez’s adaptation of Albert Camus’s The First Man (Pegasus Books). This isn’t the first time the guys have discussed Ferrandez’s adaptation. In July 2016, Derek and Gene looked at his graphic version of Camus’s The Stranger. This book is similarly moving, but in many ways denser and more pensive than the earlier adaptation. The First Man was the manuscript that Camus was working on at the time of his death, dying in a car accident. The unfinished work, and intended masterpiece, was finally published in the 1990s, but Ferrandez’s text doesn’t really feel like an uncompleted manuscript. This is quite a prose-heavy book, and philosophical in the way that Camus’s essays and fiction were thought-provoking. Derek and Pascal didn’t plan this when they chose these two books, but The First Man and Piero have a lot in common: thoughtful, pensive, and narratives scaffolded around memories and the past.